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Tammany Hall in New Orleans

Louisiana has worked hard to earn its reputation as one of the most corrupt states in the nation. On Friday, former mayor Ray Nagin, who ran the city during the Katrina disaster, was indicted on 21 charges of bribery, money laundering, and other corruption offenses, adding his name to the long list of Louisiana politicians to engage in illegal practices for personal gain.

And if the indictments prove true, Mayor Nagin’s actions were quite brazen. The WSJ reports:

Mr. Nagin set up “a bribery and kickback scheme” to sell the power of his public office, according to the indictment. He also allegedly received a range of bribes, including tens of thousands of dollars in cash payoffs, granite for his family’s granite business, private jet travel across the country and limousine rides, the indictment asserts. . .

The indictment also states that on Jan. 11, 2007, Mr. Nagin approved sale of city land “to a major retail corporation” to build a store in New Orleans. On Feb. 6, 2007, Stone Age LLC, a granite company owned by Mr. Nagin and family members, secured an “installation vendor relationship” with the same company, the indictment said.

While the company isn’t named in the indictment, Home Depot Inc. HD +0.65% did receive approval from the city to build a store in New Orleans’ Central City neighborhood in 2007. The company later did award vendor status, for a limited period of time, to Stone Age LLC, Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes confirmed Friday.

There was a lot of handwringing and national soul searching about racism in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But we havent even started the conversation about a criminal class of politicians who have fastened vampire-like on cities throughout this country. Detroit and New Orleans are the most high-profile examples, but they are not the only places where american kleptocracies prey on the poor.

This is not a racial issue but a moral and a criminal one. Tammany Hall and the crooked big city machines of the 19th century were lily-white, and it was the duty of public spirited americans who cared about the poor to put those thieves behind bars and drive them from public life.

The same thing is true today today. We need much tougher law enforcement against the entrenched criminality of some American political machines.

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